I’ll bet the first name that popped into your mind didn’t match mine. Although probably 99 out of a hundred’s first inclination was some or all politicians, I believe even they are being outdone by the newest member to climb (or descend) the ladder: The Talking Head Economist.
There’s a reason why I believe this former back room, green eye shaded figure whom at one time served a very meaningful function deserves to be taken to task. Today, far more than ever, what is paraded across the media landscape are not scholars of diligent thought and reason with numbers. Nor, are they people who seem to understand economic data and its empirical meaning in the real world. People that respect where, why, and how.
No, what passes for an economist today (my scorn is primarily directed at the media seeking talking head version) is someone who’s only task seems to be a fixation with some data point where it can be manipulated to mean anything they want it to mean. Or, how can they spin the right story that sounds good. Regardless if it’s proved to be absolutely wrong.
Many of these wizards appear so economically incompetent, I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard one of them tout something akin to, “These figures prove you can write all the checks you want to cover your overdrawn account. I state once more for the record: It shows not only what we are doing is working. It shows if we do even more of it we’ll get even better results!” (Wait, it does seem I just might have heard one say that!)
They point to this data point, then to that metric, then to this chart, followed by this graph. All hail these geniuses and the respect they should command. Then – oh oh! All of it was not only a tad off. It was absolutely wrong.
First off. How do these people claiming to be a serious business economist, host, and more appear in every form of financial media known to man touting one mantra week after week, month after month. Then, with a straight face turn 180 degrees on a dime as if they never said the former? i.e., “The financial markets are doing so well, and corporations would do so much better if the Federal Reserve would just get out of its quantitative easing (QE) manipulations. The data show this to be undeniable!” Only to now espouse the exact opposite.
With the markets once again not only nearing yearly highs. These very same markets are within spitting distance of once again break record, never before seen in human history highs. What’s being touted across the financial media landscape now?
Well it seems many of them are now gumming the notion that the Federal Reserve really can’t get out of QE quite so easily or, as hastily as they once murmured. The reason? “Well – the data shows things aren’t as good as they thought.” All I can yell is, “What?!”
It seems the very same so-called “smart crowd” of economists that have been touting ad nauseam all that data which they used as a sword against any nay-sayers proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything was moving along according to plan, were just handed the revisions. Once again all I have to say is, “Oh oh!” All with the added insult to injury of it wasn’t just a little off – it was all wrong.
Take employment as of late. Anyone with even half a brain understood at their core level the employment picture has been challenging at best. Also with little to no real world improvement, easily visible if one cared to take an honest look.
The numbers being reported made absolutely no sense to most entrepreneurs or true business professionals. Yet, to the economists, they were just what the doctor ordered. The prescription seemed filled and filled correctly. They pointed to stats that proved their case. Only what case is left when the numbers are cut in half as in last months revisions?
(Last months numbers were nearly cut in half. Did the doctor cut back on the dosage and not tell anyone? Maybe what we need is more pharmacists and less economists? Just sayin’)
They also pointed to “Main St.” getting out there eating, drinking, and spending once again. Good news since the economy is based on consumerism they tout. And, once again, just further evidence the economy is coming back, exactly as they forecast it would. Just wait till one sees how wonderful and confident the average consumer feels. All proven without a shadow of a doubt once the numbers get released to back up their hypothesis. However, once again. Oh, oh!
Yes, another important number to watch for. One they told you was like money in the bank. As with the employment figures it appears they were only half right. They were in the bank – they just couldn’t get approved.
Seems all those rosy consumer numbers they said to watch for as testament to their brilliance came out in such a way they now hope you never see them in the glaring light of day . They not only missed, they missed by so far, and so much, it is now empirical that they were one of the worst misses in financial history! (You can take that data point to the bank.)
How could consumers lose confidence when so many economists gleefully upwardly revised their expectations for a retail sales number? This would be just uncanny. All this great economic activity they see happening in their numbers. It would not make sense. I mean, after all, we’re talking numbers and, these are people who live and breathe the numbers.
Unless the numbers they predicted were wrong. And so it goes, oh oh, once again. Not only did they not reach their upwardly revised numbers. They came in lower than their original benchmark. Damn numbers. Don’t they know these people predicting their values are economists! Didn’t they get the memo? Just wait till the next prediction. They’ll tout numbers so scary decimal points will blush. That’ll teach them for not respecting their slide rules, I mean…calculators.
Yes, I know I’m being a harsh and maybe even more sarcastic. However, there are a great many people in business. Entrepreneurs of all stripes from the solo practitioner of some Mom & Pop operation, all the way to businesses that employ many people. All of them try to find reliable data Data they can use. Data they need as to try and put their best foot forward to not only be in business – but stay in business.
Nothing is guaranteed. Entrepreneurs know this. They take the risks. They put their money, their livelihoods, and many times their families livelihoods out there along with them. I think it’s insulting to entrepreneurs as well as the whole business profession what is being spread or presented as reliable data or insights across the “business” media landscape today.
Is it too much to ask these people who tout they know something and, who offer their interpretations on what is taking place in the financial markets.
(All backed up with some alphabet soup after their name. To which they’ll point to as proof on why one should take them seriously.)
To at least give the people that may be listening, the ones trying to make this economy work, a little more respect with some honest, useable interpretations? Instead of all the snake-oil they seem to soap box and pass off as “Economic Data?”
It’s near criminal what’s touted across the financial landscape today in my view. Other than that – I have no strong feelings on this matter.
© 2013 Mark St.Cyr